Penn State Extension Service Newsletter for the Week of April 23, 2018

Annual Master Gardener Greenhouse and Perennial Plant Sale – Saturday, May 19 – 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m at the Extension grounds (181 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg). Open to the public. Please bring your wagon, lawn cart or boxes to carry your plant purchases. Cash or check only (no credit cards accepted).

Franklin County Dairy Princess Pageant – Saturday, May 26 – 7:00 p.m. -

The public is cordially invited to attend the 51st Annual Franklin County Dairy Princess Pageant at Williamson Ruritan Community Center, Saint Thomas, PA. A meal of roast beef and stuffed chicken breasts will be served. The cost for the pageant will be as follows: $15 for adults, $8 per child and free for those under 4 years of age. Anyone interested in attending the pageant should contact Patty Hege at 717-375-2811 or The deadline for reservations is May 18.


Free Pressure Canner Dial Gauge Testing
Penn State Extension in Franklin County is offering free testing on June 12 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Franklin County Extension office. No need to bring your entire canner, just the lid. Sign up is not required. If you cannot attend one of the sessions, you can drop your canner lid off beforehand and pick it up later. You can also pick up free information on safe home food preservation methods. If you have any questions, please contact Penn State Extension Franklin County at 717-263-9226.


Marigolds do double duty in the vegetable garden.Annual Flowers Add Season-Long Color and Benefits to the Home Garden

By Carol Kagan, Penn State Extension Master Gardener, Franklin County


Spring is the time when colorful flowers pop up in garden centers, home improvement stores, the supermarket and roadside stands. Most of these are annuals. This year the Master Gardener Plant Sale on May 19 (9 a.m. - 1 p.m.) will feature a wide variety of annuals grown in our greenhouse in Franklin County.

Annuals are available in a wide range of colors, sizes and textures, plus various species offer solutions for sun and shade plantings. They last just one season but they provide showy colors and shapes from spring until autumn frost. While flowering perennials grow for several years without replanting, they only bloom for a relatively short part of the season. Short bloom times mean gardeners need to plant several different varieties to provide color throughout the season.

The Greenhouse Team is growing annuals this year and, dependent on germination, they will be offering a variety of plants at the plant sale. Among the annual flowers seeded are Bells of Ireland, a beautiful tall stem with green bells that fade to linen; Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia); Queen Red Lime Zinnias, an unusual bi-color; Irish Poet Tassel Flower (Emilia sp.), a rare orange flower; Bee Heaven Salvia that attracts butterflies and bees; vines including Thunbergia, the Black-Eyed Susan Vine and much more.

For those interested in attracting Monarch butterflies and caterpillars, several varieties of perennial milkweed plants will be offered including the bright orange-flowered butterfly weed (A. tuberosa).

Greenhouse Grown Plants

Once home, transplants coming from greenhouses need to be hardened off before planting in the garden. This helps plants get used to outside conditions and prevents damage from sudden changes in light intensity and temperature. Plants not hardened off may suffer and recover but this can delay fruiting and flowering. Since the plant sale is in mid-May, mild temperatures will allow the plants to get used to outdoor temperatures quickly.

The Greenhouse Team suggests putting transplants in a sheltered area and exposing them to outdoor conditions for several hours on mild days, gradually increasing the time each day. On cool nights, place plants in a sheltered area to protect them. Avoid windy days or when temperatures are below 45°F. Water enough to keep the plants from wilting.

Local gardeners are reminded that they need to wait to allow the soil to warm up and the low air temperatures in the foreseeable forecast to be consistently in the fifties or warmer. “Soil temperature is a factor which few of us consider important enough to check before planting yet it is probably the most important factor affecting … seedling growth,” writes Dr. Jerry Parsons, Texas Extension Horticulturist.

Warm soil allows plant roots to grow out into the bed quickly. If the soil temperature is not right, transplants just sit there, biding their time until it warms up. This affects root development and can stunt growth throughout the growing season.

Whether planting transplants or seeds, gardeners should prepare the soil before planting. Add organic matter and loosen it as deeply as possible to allow new roots plenty of room to grow.

To remove transplants from their pot, carefully push from the bottom. Help the roots grow and extend into the garden soil by gently pulling the roots loose. Water transplants thoroughly but don’t let water puddle around them. Most will benefit from a water-soluble fertilizer about two weeks after planting. Always follow the label directions; more is not better.

Planting from Seed

For a wider range of choices, gardeners can plant annuals from seed. Nasturtiums, four-o’clocks, sweet peas, cosmos, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana), and sunflowers are just a few examples. Most of these seeds are direct-sown in the garden after the danger of frost. The last average spring frost date in Franklin County is May 12. Although some plants such as pansies are frost-resistant, check each variety you buy for the best time to plant out in the garden.

As with transplants, good soil preparation is recommended. Provide consistent watering as the seeds sprout into seedlings. The different light requirements, colors, sizes and shapes of blooms offer something for every place in the garden. Annuals fit along a walkway, as edging for a landscape bed, in containers from decorative pots to hanging baskets and window boxes and can be tucked into the vegetable garden.

For a full season of color in the shade, it’s hard to beat impatiens or fuchsia. Impatiens are available in colors from white and pale pink to coral and lipstick red. They are regularly used as a border along shady landscape areas or mounded in baskets. Fuchsia’s unusual shaped lantern-like flowers in vibrant colors of magentas, pinks, purples, and whites are best showcased in hanging baskets.

Most annuals love the sun. It’s easy to leave a one-foot strip along the front edge of a walkway to fill each year with the annual of your choice. Try petunias and other trailing annuals to drape over walls or terraces.

Use annuals for container gardens. One common technique for designing container gardens is the “thriller, filler, spiller concept” which uses three different types of plants to create well-rounded combinations. There are annual plants to fill all three of those slots.

As a tall plant with striking flowers, Bells of Ireland are excellent for the “thriller.” The green color allows for many color choices for the other plants. Coleus plants are great “fillers” as their leaves often have two or more colors making it easy to blend with other plants. Trailing lantana with lavender and pink blooms and bright green foliage is a good choice as a “spiller” as are petunias which come in many different colors.

Annuals in the Vegetable Garden

A not-so-well-known fact is that colorful annuals can do double duty in the vegetable garden by adding color and benefiting the vegetables at the same time. Dorrie Mininger, Penn State Master Gardener, notes that petunias repel asparagus beetles, and marigolds planted among potatoes discourage Colorado potato beetles. On the other hand, nasturtiums lure aphids and other pests away from crops.

Indeed, annual flowers can find a home in any garden - shade or sun, on the ground or in a hanging basket - or even lying in wait for aphids in the vegetable garden.

For more information about the 2018 Plant Sale, please contact the Franklin County Penn State Extension office at 717-263-9226 or A catalog will be available online closer to the sale date.

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